At first, Tyler Clippard was shocked that he had been traded from Washington to Oakland on Wednesday night. During his seven years with the Nationals, during which he went from starter to two-time all-star reliever, he grew to love the city, the fans, the team and his teammates. He was around when the Nationals lost 100 games and helped them win close to 100 in two of the past three seasons. But now, the fan favorite reliever embarks on a new challenge in his career. Reached by phone Friday, Clippard shared his thoughts on the trade, the Nationals and the Athletics:
How did you react to the trade initially?
“It was shocking. Earlier this offseason, there were some rumors out there. Rumors are rumors and I’ve been through that part before. But at the same time, once January came around and we got closer to the arbitration date, you don’t necessarily think a trade is gonna happen or is even possible. I kinda thought I was out of the woods. So when I got traded the other day, it was shocking because you don’t really know how to feel. You’ve got to make the best of it, obviously. So it’s trying to put a positive outlook on something that hurts. You leave a family and friends and people that you have built a life with over the last seven years and things you’re used to and things routine-wise that you’re not gonna do anymore, like going to spring training and finding places in D.C. and things life that. Your life is kinda turned upside down in minutes. It’s a shock for sure. I think where I sit today it’s kinda one of those things that I’m excited because the opportunity for me in Oakland is gonna be significantly better than in D.C. I’m thankful and excited about that.”
How much did you hope to stay in Washington for 2015 and even beyond?
“You always have that stuff in the back of your mind about having a 12-, 15-year career in one city. I kinda felt like I was on that track whether it was by accident or luck of the draw situation in D.C. Guys in a set-up role or bullpen role are very interchangeable pieces in baseball. You don’t see guys stick around that long. They shuffle all over the league. I felt like I had a pretty strong foothold in the D.C. area where I was hoping I’d luck out and spend my whole career there. But it didn’t work that way and I didn’t expect it to. It was more or less wishful thinking. … I was fortunate to spend seven years in D.C. and it was kind of an unusual thing [for a reliever] and I loved every minute of it.”
What will you miss the most about Washington and the Nationals?
“I don’t know how it all kind of took place but for whatever reason I had a special connection with the fans and they treated me really, really good. For a bullpen guy, an eighth-inning guy, to get the recognition and the love and some of those things fans showed me on and off the field. I remember my bobblehead day at the end of the season, running out for that game and getting a standing ovation and chills going down my back. I was like, ‘Man, why is this happening to me? I’m just a set-up guy.’ For whatever reason, they just embraced me and I was very thankful for it and tried to give it back to them. The people in the D.C. area I’m going to miss and the relationships that I created with a lot of people in that area and they showed me love and I’m going to miss that.”
And your teammates?
“That goes without saying. The teammates, you go to work with eight, nine months of the year, you’re gonna have no choice but become very very close with those people. Those guys are going to be my friends for life and I’m not worried about that. It’s going to suck not going to battle with those guys, potentially sort of seeing it through in terms of winning a World Championship with some of my closest friends in the world, but at the same time it’s part of the business. We’re going to keep in touch, play golf, have some drinks. It’s not a big deal. It is what it is as part of the business.”
How were your other conversations with teammates, coaches and other Nationals officials?
“All those phone calls that those guys made to me were real tough. I appreciated what [GM Mike Rizzo] had to say. I talked to Matt [Williams]. I think the toughest phone call for me was talking to pitching coach Steve McCatty. He was the pitching coach I had when I first came into the organization in 2008 in Triple-A. We got called up in the big leagues a week apart from each other. We’re just really close. He’s like that second dad to me. That conversation was really tough. Very emotional in a sense that we’ve been through everything together professionally and off the field. It’s been a long ride and I’m going to miss him being my pitching coach for sure.
What do you know about Oakland, the Athletics and what your role will be?
“I’m still trying to get a feel for all that. I’ve done the normal looking online at the roster and seeing if I know some guys and I know a couple of the guys and seeing what kind of club we have. I know the history of the A’s over the last four, five seasons. The organization seems to find a way to win. They’re a scrappy club, that particular type of baseball, the way they play, the demeanor really fits my personality really well. I haven’t really asked how or when I’m going to pitching. Those decisions are up to the people that make those decisions. I’m just going to do whatever I do when they ask me to do it. I’m just excited to get an opportunity over there and help them win.”